They threw a girl into the brig shortly after sunset. One of the lookouts dragged her down the stairs by the scruff of her shirt, handling her with unusual care and delicacy. He shoved her against a wall hard enough to steal her breath and tossed her chains through an iron loop on the wall while she stood gasping.

It wasn't strange to the brig's prisoners to greet new occupants; on a pirate ship such as this, captured merchants and navy men were often locked below while the crew plundered their new treasures.

But it was new that she was FEMALE.

Anything even remotely pretty was usually kept above deck- as part of the booty. Any nastiness was left behind or walked the plank. It had been a long time since any of them had seen a female.

And what a female! She was thin as a rail, dressed in an oversized white tunic and buckskin breeches. She was towheaded and pale-skinned, with long legs and a wonderfully delicate face. Her hair swirled loose below her shoulders and hid her eyes.

She finally caught her wind and leaned against the rough wood planking while she enjoyed the simple act of breathing.

The lookout sneered at her and mimed a blow to her face. She flinched back fast and pulled as far away as the chains would let her. The language she snarled in a strangely deep voice was nothing any of the other prisoners had ever heard.

"Yeah, yeh upstart little shit. You watch yo' mouth, or I break your teeth."

The girl snapped something back at him and planted her bare foot squarely in his chest. He hit the ground and spat with rage as he struggled to his feet- but a call from the stairwell kept him from retaliating. With one final venomous look at their newest addition, he mounted the stairs leading back to the deck.

Almost the very moment the door swung shut behind him, the girl whirled in her bonds and braced one foot against the wall, pulling for all she was worth.

"Lass- " One burly man close to her started, "No kinda strength ever gonna get you free from those chains. Solid iron, they are." But she continued yanking and struggling with the chains, examining each and every link, the spot where they joined behind the hook on the wall, and her wrists where they were encircled by the heavy metal loops.

"Girl- ye understand him?" One of his compatriots tried. With her glorious hair free dancing about her shoulders as she worked, she looked wild and furious, like those paintings of the All Things Wild goddess in shrines in Conall. But still, she gave no sign she heard or understood what the men said to her. She barely even seemed to know they were there.

She now had both legs braced upon the wall and was trying to squeeze her slender wrists through the shackles. Failing, she dropped back to the ground and sagged as low as the chains allowed; gasping for air.

"I don't think she knows we here. Dommie?" Several of the sailors turned to the solitary captured doctor, chained to the floor across the room. He was watching the girl's antics, frowning slightly and chewing some thought over. "Dommie?"

He looked up at them under furrowed brows when they addressed him for the second time. "Hm?"

"He said: she don't know we're here, eh?" A captured merchant from a different ship piped in.

"Well- I have been observing her, and I wonder. It may be the case that she's deaf or mute. Or, she may simply speak a different language."

"Well, you know a slew. Try and talk to 'er. Tell 'er she's gonna 'urt 'erself."

Dom nodded and pulled himself as far up as he could, barely to his knees.
"Excuse me?" he tried, in the language used by the sailors.
"Could you stop?"
"Girl- hello?"
"Pardon me?"

He tried in any of a half-dozen different languages.

She was examining a ragged bit of metal on the edge of the iron loop with fierce intensity.

"Please- do you understand me?" He asked in a remote mountain dialect spoken in maybe ten villages he'd ever visited.

She jerked and twisted to see him. He lifted his chin to catch her eye.

"Ah- you DO understand me, perhaps?"

The girl cocked her head in an endearing sort of way. "Barely- what do you want?"

"Heyheyhey! Dommie! She speak that language or what?" One of his fellows cut in. Dom nodded distractedly.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the onlookers, their conversation continued thusly:

"Please forgive any discrepancies in my language; I am not well-versed in this dialect."

"Don't worry about it. Barely speak it myself." She turned her face away and her attention back to the chains. "What do you want?"

Dom frowned a bit, chewing her question. What DID he want?

"We...Well, where are you from? It is strange for these pirates to add only one prisoner, or a single female. What has happened?"

The girl paused. She turned her neck to look at him, incredulity warring with irritation on her features. Full-on, she was breathtaking.


Dom nodded.

She shrugged in feigned confusion. "I see no girl."